18 May 2016

The Electric Revolution

Deputy Mayor of Auckland, Penny Hulse, is convinced electric bikes are part of the new paradigm that will herald a cycling and walking transformation in Auckland.


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Penny Hulse gets swept up in the joy of riding her electric bike to work each day.

She is convinced, it’s part of the new paradigm that will herald a cycling and walking transformation in Auckland.

When and how did you become interested in commuting on an electric bike?

My son James lives in London. I stayed with him last year and discovered Boris Bikes. I spent a week biking around London in summer and I thought, if it works in London, then I can do it in Auckland too. When I returned to Auckland, my Dutch friend was going away and she said she’d loan me hers, so I decided to give it a whirl. Then I got mine in November last year. That seems how it’s going to unfold here. You try it and it’s transformative.

Where do you bike and how long does it take?

I live in Te Atatu Peninsula and cycle along the motorway. I head down a mouth of a river and along the stream to the city. It’s quick and easy. For me, it’s time management. That’s how it all started. I enjoy going outside and doing things. But to miss the traffic – it’s time critical. I was leaving home at 6.15am in the car. You have to leave then. With the bike, the timeframe is immaterial. I can go for a run in the morning, have a coffee with my husband Paul and leave for work at 8 and get to work at 8.45. And that’s fun. If you left at 8 in the car, it would take you longer and you wouldn’t have the joy of travel.

How fast do you go?

Just over 30km on the flat. Along the motorway, all the time you are pedalling you have motor assist. That assistance goes from level one to five. You’re still pedalling at five but not a lot of pedal power is required. I also have a throttle on my bike which makes it easier to take off at a reasonable speed, so you’re not struggling.

How do you charge the bike and how long does it go for?

I have an electric plug like a phone charger but it’s about half the size of a shoebox and it slides into the back of the bike. With that charge, I’m fine to go to work and back from home. The battery comes out so you can put it in your handbag. It’s the most expensive part of the bike so you’ve got to look after it.

What about the savings?

No petrol, no pollutants, no garage, no hassle. It’s so easy.

Are there many others on electric bikes?

There are a lot like me. I’m 57 and not young. But the electric bike makes the hills effortless. That’s the joy. It’s nice when you see another electric bike and you stop and have a little natter – a ‘nice to see you’ discussion.

Is it really viable in Auckland?

It’s hugely viable for commuting within a certain radius. For people like me, it’s predicated on the ability to make cycleway connections. These remove the whole complexity of congestion on Auckland’s roads. We can keep trying to recreate what we had 20 years ago, but that’s not viable. It’s simply not an option. It’s like a fat person trying to fit into their old clothes. It just doesn’t work. So let’s build as many alternatives in people’s lives as we can.

I can bike to Henderson and jump on a train if I want to get to New Lynn. They have bike spaces on the train. There’s a carriage with mobility and bike signage with pop up seats so you just park your bike there. I think we’ll need an increase in these carriages in the future. The biggest test is in winter. I want to do the whole year so I can talk about the genuine experience. As long as you’re warm, it’s OK.

How can you convince Aucklanders they are the mode of the future?

You have to have a little experience before you can talk about it. We sold our house in Swanson and before we bought in Te Atatu, we rented an apartment in Ponsonby for six months. It’s all very well for people to talk about living in apartments. At least you can say you have a sense of it. Same with the bike and public transport. You can’t wiggle your finger and tell people to do things if you haven’t tried it yourself.

How good is riding an electric bike?

When I was at the supermarket a few months ago, I walked out and saw an electric bike. It wasn’t mine. But standing there with my groceries, I had a moment. You know. And then I spoke to the old man who owned it and asked what he thought of it. He said, after two months, it was twice as good as he had imagined. In three months, it was three times as good as he thought it would be. That sums it up for me too.

 

 

 

 

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